Premier Brad Wall has alerted the citizens of Saskatchewan as to what to expect in this spring's budget.
He has suggested it is going to be rather unexciting and pragmatic, meaning that we are not to get our hopes up too high this time around.
If he can pull it off, he is to be applauded since this is a newly elected government that pretty well has the run of the ship right now. There is a weakened opposition that is still on an extended search for a leader while the Sask. Party rides a huge wave of popularity.
So why not toss cash around?
Well, for one thing, they don't have to.
Then there is still that potash fear factor to consider. It took us three years to crawl out from under the last overestimation of that industry, and that was during strong economic conditions in the other resource sectors. We expect he doesn't want to go down that road again.
We believe the premier and his cohorts have come to the realization that their previous shows of largesse have cost us all a lot of money. Some good things have been accomplished, mind you. We've been able to wade through more than a few nature-driven disasters without punishing consequences.
But it seems that Wall and company have realized that they are now at the bottom of the piggy bank and with no legislation in place to substantially increase revenues other than through natural population growth, the time has come to rein in spending.
Wall and his team have arrived at that point on a number of fronts, one of them being right here in southeast Saskatchewan. The pride of their Crown corporations, SaskPower, has to find $800 million to complete just the first phase of a worldly ambitious clean-coal project.
We have a demanding provincial civil service that needs feeding and the talent in that pool, we have learned over the past few years, is limited.
There are new union contracts to negotiate and complete within the next year. We don't expect their demands will be diminished in the spirit of reducing debts and deficits.
With unprecedented population growth comes added expectations from governments and our premier has realized this stark reality. There will be a huge need for some type of subsidized housing even if it does grate on the nerves of the pure capitalists in their midst. This government, more than any other, has arrived at a state of realization that there needs to be a mix of capitalism and socialism when it comes to good governance.
They have learned that a purely capitalistic system only works in economic textbooks, not in the real life of governments. We believe this provincial government is now preparing itself to answer that call on a larger scale. They will if they are truly pursuing the pragmatic route.
We have been forewarned there will be additional hurt being spread throughout southern Saskatchewan when the hammer drops on the new economic order this spring.
We're told to expect more significant cuts to funding for elementary and secondary educational systems and not to expect any grand announcements regarding highways and infrastructure assistance.
Apparently that money has already been spent and the invoices are coming in. The bills have to be paid using future income, and that's not healthy.
So by preparing us early for some not-so-good news later on, Wall is simply exercising his well honed social instincts. There may be good news later on in his current four-year mandate, but for now, don't expect too much.
That's simply good political and economic strategy that should pay off as it plays out.
We may not like it when we get the news, but it's difficult to argue against it faced with the new realities of life in Saskatchewan.
We're rich, just not as rich as we thought we were.